Yakima police clear officer of wrongdoing in fatal shooting - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

UPDATE: Prosecutor will not charge officer involved in shooting death of Yakima man

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UPDATE AUGUST 11TH, 2016

YAKIMA, WA- The Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney has decided not to charge the officer involved in the shooting death of Juan Briseno-Ortega.

"The following decision regarding the officer involved shooting as indicated above is based upon
the reports and documents that I have received from the Yakima Police Department after the
completion of their full investigation surrounding this shooting of Juan Briseno-Ortega on June
10th,2016 at2l25 S. 68th Avenue, Yakima, WA. The Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney's
Office has now completed its review of the reports, videos, recordings and various statements
created during that investigation.


The relevant statute pertaining to an officer involved shooting here in the state of Washington is
RCW 9A.16.040 - Justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by public officer, peace
officer, person aiding. The specific sections in the Revised Code of Washington are RCW
9A.16.040(t)(b) and RCw 9A.16.040(l)(c)(i). In addition, RCW 9A.16.040(2) delineates how
deadly force is to be used under subsection (1Xc). RCW 9A.16.040(1)(b) provides, in part, that
the use of deadly force by a law enforcerment officer is justified when necessarily used by a
peace officer to overcome actual resistance to the execution of the legal process, mandate, or
order of a court or officer, or in the discharge of a legal duty.


Additionally, RCW 9A.16.040(1XcXi) permits the use of deadly force if necessarily used by a
peace officer to arrest or apprehend a person who the officer reasonably believes has cornmitted,
has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a felony. ln such a situation,
the officer must have probable cause to believe the suspect, if not apprehended, poses a threat of
serious physical harm to the officer or a threat of serious physical harm to others. Circumstances
which may be considered by peace officers as a "threat of serious physical harm" include the
situation where the suspect threatens the officer with a weapon or displays a weapon in a
manner that could be reasonably construed as threatening or there is probable cause to believe
that the suspect has committed any crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of
serious physical harm. Under these circumstances, deadly force may also be used if necessary to
prevent escape from the officer, where, if feasible, some warning is given.


Finally, the key statutory provision involving a justifiable homicide by a law enforcement officer
is RCW 9A.16040(3) which states the following:
A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force
without malice and with a goodfaith belief that such act is justifiable pursuant to this section.


INVESTIGATION
The following facts are relevant to my decision determining whether this homicide was
justifiable or not based upon the investigation performed by the Yakima Police Department.
On June 7},2}76,Yakima Police Officer Bradley Althauser was working his assigned C-Blue
Shift as a uniformed patrol officer which had begun at4pm. He was working the western most
district in the city limits of Yakima. Althauser was responding to a domestic incident in another
district when he heard the call regarding a possible physical confrontation at2125 S. 68th
Avenue. This incident was in his district so he responded from S. 40th and W. Nob Hill Blvd.
This call involved two males inside of a garage arguing based upon neighbors in the area. When
he arrived at the scene, he observed two garage doors facing the street and the left one appeared
to be damaged and pushed out as if a car had attempted to drive through it while it was closed.
Sgt. Ryan Wisner also was headed to the scene as was YPD Officer Graves.


Officer Althauser parked and heard two male voices arguing in the damaged garage. He heard a
smacking sound along with the yelling. The garage was dark but he could see about a foot or
two inside. A man was sitting in a wheelchair near the opening of the garage that had been
damaged. The man in the wheelchair was taking a defensive posture and the officer could hear
something being swung at him. The officer clearly heard assault sounds coming from inside the
garage. Off. Althauser pounded on the garage door and announced his presence. Sensing a
serious assault was taking place and seeing and hearing the altercation, Althauser grabbed the
broken panel and pulled it back so he could enter. He drew his pistol.


There were two cars parked in the garage. The officer observed a man standing a few feet from
the man in the wheelchair that the officer believed was being assaulted. Sgt. Wisner was now at
the scene and had approached the garage as well. Althauser was approximately five to eight feet
away from Mr. Briseno-Ortega. He moved in front of the victim and observed the decedent's
angry face as he yelled at the officer. Althauser pointed his pistol at Briseno-Ortega and told him
to show me your hands!" As Briseno-Ortega yelled at the officer, he lifted his shirt and looked
down. The officer could clearly see a visible pistol in the front of his waist band. The officer
observed it to be a revolver. Althauser, in his written statement, then indicated the following:
As he lowered his shirt he brought his hands down to his side, in close proximity to the gun I
yelled at him telling him to turn away from me and put his hands up. I was within four to five
feet of him. He did not comply with my orders. I then grabbed at his hands with my left hand,
attempting to keep him from reaching for the gun in his waistband He pulled away from me.
I kept myself in a bladed stance with my gun drawn to my right armpit,furthest away from the
suspect I grabbed him by the arm and threw him into the SUV on the right side of the garage.
Althauser yelled at Sgt. Wisner that the suspect had a gun. Once again, the officer threw his left
shoulder into the suspect pushing him into the SUV. Once again, he yelled at the suspect to put
his hands up. The suspect continued to resist and did not comply with the commands. He was
yelling at the officer and would not face away. At this juncture, the officer atternpted to move
the suspects' hands while continuing to point his weapon at him. The officer then felt the
suspects' hands "move towards his waist line." The officer stepped back and was attempting to
get between the victim in the wheelchair and the suspect fearing, at that moment, that the suspect
was going to shoot the victim or him, Officer Althauser. The officer then fired two shots at the
suspect which struck him in the chest. Briseno-Ortega fell face first to the ground with Officer
Althauser following him down. When down, the officer removed the suspect's gun. It had a five
inch barrel and appeared to be loaded. Officer Graves took the gun from Althauser. Both
Officers Althauser and Wisner attempted to provide medical aid until medical units arrived. The
suspect died at approximately 5:30 pm from two gunshot wounds to the chest. Cause of death
per the Forensic Pathologist's report was a 0.40 caliber gunshot wound to the heart which caused
instant cardiac pump failure.


Sgt. Wisner was an eyewitness to this shooting and was interviewed during the investigation. He
indicated that he observed the scuffle and both doing "a lot of grabbin', a little push, pullin." He
saw the suspect pull away from Officer Althauser and put his back up against the car in the
garage. He then states the following, "As he lowered his shirt he brought his hands down to his side, in close proximity to the gun I
yelled at him telling him to turn away from me and put his hands up. I was within four to five
feet of him. He did not comply with my orders. I then grabbed at his hands with my left hand,
attempting to keep him from reaching for the gun in his waistband He pulled away from me.
I kept myself in a bladed stance with my gun drawn to my right armpit,furthest away from the
suspect I grabbed him by the arm and threw him into the SUV on the right side of the garage."


The other eyewitness to this shooting in the garage, Ruperto Briseno-Ortega, was the suspect's
brother and the victim of the domestic violence assault. In interviewing Ruperto, it was
determined that both he and the suspect lived at that address together. Ruperto indicated that he
wanted to go to Walmart in his wheelchair and his brother refused to let him go. He then began
to drive his wheelchair into the door repeatedly, damaging it. The suspect had went inside but
had come back out and began assaulting his brother. Ruperto called out to a neighbor to call 9-1-
1. Fifteen minutes later the officers showed up and entered the garage. One officer pushed Juan
back against the van in the garage. He described his brothers' hands as "slightly rising from his
body'' and then the officer yelling "he's got a gun." He then stated that his brother was shot
twice.


A significant piece of evidence that corroborates some of the investigation discussed above is the
coban video from Sgt. Wisner's patrol vehicle. As Sgt. Wisner pulled up to the house after Off.
Althauser, he pointed his vehicle and coban video at the entrance to the garage which provided
critical video and audio evidence of some of the activity leading up to and including the
shooting. Clearly, from the review of the video, Officer Althauser can be heard yelling "hand's
up" and "he's got a gun" prior to the shooting. This independent evidence corroborates the
officers and their accounts.

CONCLUSION
This was an excellent investigation by the various Yakima Police Department personnel
involved. The scene was controlled immediately after the shooting and evidence was obtained. I
conclude that based upon the facts as I know thern from the complete investigation that was
made and presented to me as well as the current applicable Washington state law, Yakima Police
Department Officer Bradley Althauser was justified in his use of deadly force under the
circumstances as they appeared to him at the address of 2125 S. 68th Avenue, Yakima, WA.
Officer Althauser responded to this address based upon the reported allegation of a potential
verbal and/or physical confrontation. When he arrived, he observed and heard this confrontation
and believed it was a physical assault. With that probable cause, he entered the garage and was
engaged in a physical confrontation with the suspect/decedent Juan Briseno-Ortega. He
commanded the suspect to show his hands and observed a pistol in his waistband. The suspect
moved his hands toward his pistol, failing to comply with the officer's directives. The officer
moved in front of the assault victim and believed in good faith, at that moment, that either he or
the victim were going to be shot. It is at that moment he fired two rounds into the chest of the
decedent. I conclude that the officer, under these facts, had probable cause to believe that the
suspect posed a threat of serious physical harm to himself, Sgt. Wisner and/or to the assault
victim still remaining in the garage.


Finally, I find no evidence to show that Officer Althauser used deadly force with malice which is
manifested through an "evil intent, wish or design to . . . injure another person." Officer
Althauser tried numerous times to get the suspect to comply with his commands in an attempt to
take him into custody. Additionally, Officer Althauser acted in good faith and with lawfulness
of purpose. The evidence is clear that Althauser had probable cause to believe there existed a
very real threat of serious physical harm to him or others and, thus, the deadly force used by him
was reasonable and necessary considering all the circumstances presented at that time. Officer
Althauser will not be charged with a crime and acted reasonably and prudently as he had been
trained."

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YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - Yakima police are recommending that no criminal charges be filed against an officer who fatally shot a man after responding to a domestic dispute.
 
A police investigation has determined that the June 10 shooting of J. Juan Briseno-Ortega was justified. The Yakima County Prosecutor's Office will review the report to determine if charges should be filed against Officer Brad Althauser.
 
Police had responded to a West Valley home that Briseno-Ortega and his 52-year-old brother shared after a neighbor reported a fight between the two men.
 
Althauser told investigators Briseno-Ortega had a handgun tucked in his waistband, and that he hadn't complied with his commands to show his hands. The officer says he shot Briseno-Ortega as he tried to reach for his waistband.

__________________________________________________


PREVIOUS: The name of the officer who was involved in the shooting has been released and he is 33-year-old Officer Brad Althauser who has worked for the police department since 2012. 

Police Chief Dominic Rizzi said in a press conference that they believe the officer fired two bullets at the suspect J. Juan Briseno-Ortega. They have still not confirmed if Briseno-Ortega pulled or was going to pull his gun. 

"He either grabbed or attempted to grab a 6 in a half inch 22 caliber revolver from his waistband," said Rizzi. 

Rizzi also stated that officers have been called to the residence for domestic violence before and that Briseno-Ortega has abused drugs in the past. 

__________________________________________________

PREVIOUS: Officials in Yakima have identified the man who was shot and killed Friday night by police who were responding to a domestic dispute.

Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins says 50-year-old J. Juan Briseno-Ortega died at the scene of a West Valley home. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday
 
Capt. Jeff Schneider says more details about the shooting, including the name of the officer, how the incident unfolded and number of shots fired, is expected Monday. 
 
___________________________________________________

PREVIOUS: It happened close to 5:30 in the evening at the 2000 block of south 68th Avenue. Law enforcement said they got a call involving a domestic situation, when officers responded there were two males fighting in the garage area of the residence. One of the males pulled out a hand gun and the officer returned fire shooting and killing the male. The second male and the officer were uninjured. The officer has been put on administrative leave.

"This is a homicide, so we will conduct a criminal investigation and that information will be forwarded on to the prosecutors office and the prosecutor will determine whether or not it is a justifiable homicide," said Mike Bastinelli, Spokesman for the Yakima Police Department. 

One witness told NBC Right Now she saw a police officer go through the garage door of the residence that was half open and than heard three gun shots. She adds that after that happened the garage door was pried open by law enforcement. 

At this point and time the identity of the officer and the suspect have not been released and law enforcement is actively investigating the scene. We will update this story as we get more information. 

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